Friday, 23 February 2018

oh say did you know?

The notoriously difficult for non-professional singers to assay US national anthem, the Defense of Fort McHenry reflagged as “The Star-Spangled Banner” when it was adopted in 1931 after a few failed attempts and vigorous rallying, finally shamed into passing a bill when cartoonist and sideshow act curator Robert L Ripley entered the debate was not only translated into German to attract recruits for the Union’s war effort during the US Civil War (and several other languages subsequently), that an upset poet and polymath, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Senior added a fifth stanza in protest.

First—here is the former, as hinted at, Das Star-Spangled Banner (not a literal translation and note the old spellings):

O! sagt, könnt ihr sh’n in des Morgenroths Strahl,
Was so stolz wir im scheidenden Ubendroth grüßten?
Die Sterne, die Streifen, die wehend vom Wall,
Im tödtlichen Kampf uns den Unblickt verfüßten?
Hoch flattere die Fahne in herrlicher Pracht,
Beim Leuchten der Bomben durch dunkle Racht.
O! sagt, ob das Banner, mit Sternen befä’t,
Ueber’m Lande der Freien und Braven noch weht?

Vom Strand aus zu seh’n durch die Nebel der See,
Wo Feindes Schaar ruhet in drohendem Schweigen,
Was ist’s das die Wind’ auf befestiger Höh’
Mit neckebdem Weh’n bald verhüllen, bald zeigen?
Jetzt faßt es der Sonne hell leuchtenden Strahl,
 Jetzt scheint es vom Berge, jetzt weht’s ueber’s Thal.
O! es ist ja das Banner mit Sternen befä’t,
Das ueber’m Lande der Freien und Braven noch weht.

Und wo ist die Band’, die verwegentlich schwor,
Dass die Gräuel des Krieges, das Wüthen der Schlachten,
Sollt’ rauben uns Heimath und Vaterlands Flor?
Ihr Herzblut bezahle das frevelnde Trachten.
Keine Gnade noch Schonung für Herr und für Knecht,
Nur Tod sei die Loosung, dann sind wir gerächt.
Und siegreich das Banner mit Sternen besä’t,
Ueber’m Lande der Freien und Braven noch weh’t.

Und wo die Männer für Freiheit und Vaterland
Vereinigt stehn, Da sende von Oben,
Den Kämpfern errettend die mächtige Hand,
Die Freien, die müssen den Vater dort loben.
Gerecht ist die Sache, auf Gott wir vertrau’n.
D'rum sei die Loosung, auf ihn wir fest bau’n
Und siegreich das Banner, mit Sternen besä’t,
Ueber’m Lande der Freien und Braven noch weht.

Holmes’ contribution is not echoed in the German lyric sheet:

When our land is illumined with Liberty’s smile,
If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile
The flag of her stars and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained,
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.

After the cessation in fighting, this stanza was dropped but German-speaking (or whatever was appropriate for their immigration background) school children continued to sing the above version in class until the outbreak of World War I.

Play ball!


Operating on the idea that gesture and gesticulation is the common lot of mankind and represents the closest that humans are capable of getting to a universal language, doctor and educator John Bulwer authored a pamphlet in 1644 called Chirologia, or the Naturall Language of the Hand with a number of illustrations to add rhetorical weight to one’s words, gleaned from a variety of historical sources.
Although the good doctor himself never seemed to academically link his earlier works to his later advocacy for the education of the hearing-impaired (one of the first champions of the deaf), Bulwer’s studies were formative to the invention of sign language and remnants can still be found in contemporary parlance. Records show that Bulwer’s spouse and issue—called only the widow of Middleton and adopted a daughter, probably deaf, named fancifully Chirothea (Gift of the Hands) Johnson—is no relation to Baron Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton who authored a series of best-selling novels in the mid-nineteenth century, coining such phrases as “the great unwashed masses,” “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and perhaps most famously, the opening, “it was a dark and stormy night.” Bulwer-Lytton—who also turned down the crown of Greece when offered and inadvertently informed neo-Nazi esotericism by creating a subterranean master race called the Vril that appear in Wolfenstein and as an earlier, more fascist version of the Morlocks, suffered from deafness during his waning years.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

die weiße rose

On this day, seventy-five years ago, leading members of the intellectual Nazi resistance group the White Rose, were executed by guillotine after a series of hasty show trials conducted after the 18 February 1943 arrests of siblings Hans Scholl (24 years old), Sophie Scholl (21) and Christoph Probst (24), students at the University of München, ending the movement’s activities after less than a year of operations. The capture by the Gestapo followed an attempt by the students to distribute leaflets (EN/DE) critical of the Nazi regime and delivered to the Volksgerichtshof—infamous already for its unfair political trials.


The curatorial staff over at Hyperallergic feature an absolutely amazing collection of board games acquired by ardent collectors Ellen and Arthur Liman that reach back to the conception of the evening’s entertainment in the early nineteenth century. A spinoff from advances in printing technologies, as ephemera, the topics emphasised and values signalled (here are a few other examples of select messaging) offer a rather unique glimpse at the popular imagination of people the UK of Georgian and Victorian eras. Be sure to visit the link up top to peruse a whole gallery of wholesome pastimes and to learn more about the collection’s recent compilation in book form.

but is it art?

The pet cat Docket of confessional and exhibitionist artist Tracey Emin went missing in Spring of 2002, but due her reputation as an artist (probably best remembered for her controversial readymade installation of her unmade, lived-in bed in 1988 and 1999 and a tent whose interior that listed the names of everyone Emin had slept with) the missing cat posters (Docket himself was featured in several works of art) she put up around her neighbourhood were instantly recognised as a potential collectors’ item and spirited away.  Despite her gallery’s issuance of a statement that the missing cat posters were just that, it was difficult for the public afterwards to not include them among her repertoire. Despite the inability to keep this notice and plea posted for long, Docket was found and reunited with his human. What do you think? When does memorabilia become art and vice-versa? This is of course more personal and potentially fraught than some anodyne transaction made famous than for the celebrity involved.


The always intrepid team at Atlas Obscura tracks down and interviews an Alpine sketch artist committed to creating a universal bestiary drawing on the mythological and folkloric sources from around the world.
Like Imam Joy El Shami-Mader, I’ve come across really fantastic, imaginative descriptions but was sometimes at a loss for visualising such beasts and monsters (especially ones outside the Western tradition) for lack of illustration—like the chimera pictured, the artist’s interpretation of the Kotobuki (the long-lived one), a creature composed of parts of all the animals represented by the Japanese zodiac. Be sure to visit Ms El-Shami-Mader’s social media property for more incredible creatures, learn their stories and help her complete her project with your suggestions.